Back in Action


It's been a minute since I've blogged, sent a newsletter, or done any visual thinking outside of client projects. Originally it was by design, and then life happened. I shared the above doodle on Instagram earlier this week about how the situation feels. I will start at the bottom and work my way up. 

Phase 1: Afraid but Ready.

At the end of the summer, I had plans for a lot of personal travel and a lot of work. I also set a goal to launch my new studio + brand by the one year mark from my last day at Deloitte. In order to get it all done, I decided to stop blogging and sending a newsletter to make time. 

To help move things along with the brand I signed up for a Launch Session with the team at Flight Design. I was (and still am) thrilled with my new logo and identity system. But I made ZERO progress on the parts of the launch that I needed to do. Rather than work on the website, I just compiled a list of reasons why this was a bad idea and began second guessing everything. Then I did two things that really helped me get back on track: 

First, I shared my ideas with two people I trust and who have respect for my work. I didn't just talk about my broad stroke plans for was going to do- I shared the specifics: the business name, the model, the services, and the concerns that I was having. It was incredibly helpful and encouraging to get some real feedback and support (thanks Scott and Dan!) 

Second, I scheduled a coaching call with Ariana from Flight. She was pretty quick to identify that all of my concerns and excuses were masking something bigger-- I was afraid. I didn't want to look stupid, unprepared, or even worse- generic. Once I named it out loud, I was able to move on from the fear and work out some simple steps to getting closer to my goal. I was behind schedule, but not overwhelmed by the to-do-list to get caught up. 

Phase 2: Life. 

The day after my coaching call, I was in the middle of delivering a client workshop when I received news that my sister-in-law passed away unexpectedly. I dropped everything and left DC that afternoon, spent a few weeks with my brother and family in North Carolina, and slowly but surely began to pick up the pieces.

Coming back was tough. It felt like I was trying to put all of the pieces back together in the right place, but without any reference or motivation. The best I could do was find the most important pieces to hold onto, let the other ones go, and get creative when putting them into a new arrangement. It took a LOT longer than I thought, and it's still a work in progress-- I'm sure anyone who has been through something similar can relate. 

Phase 3: Just Jump! 

Because of the nature of my sister-in-law's passing--an accidental overdose after years of quietly battling a prescription drug addiction--I find myself continually grasping for any information that will help me understand her struggle and the systemic problems that were underlying drivers. I have read books and articles, watched documentaries, and listened to music. Each of these mediums has a different perspective, and it got me thinking about how to really, truly, connect with another person. A few weeks ago I fired off a thread of tweets that may help you understand where my mind is on the topic.

I'm working through these thoughts in my client projects by experimenting with different ways make visualizations more human and personal. I'm also realizing I have been drawn to a more human and personal feel in my work for a long time-- it's the reason I left my job last year and started building my own studio. I now recognize what I have been wanting all along is to connect with my colleagues, my clients, and our audiences in an honest, deep, and meaningful way. 

So that's my new motivation to get my studio, Relay x Catherine Madden, up and running. I may be way behind my original timeline, but it feels good to at least be back in motion. More to come, soon!